Heads, Kruger; Tails, Serengeti

Where is Africa’s most iconic safari destination? The question most first-timers ask when planning their trip to the bush. This depends on who is asking and while there isn’t a definitive answer, the Kruger National Parkand the Serengeti come head-to head when trying to claim the title.  Let us compare two of Africa’s most popular wildlife epicentres and help you decide:

Singita Sabi Sands Luxury Lodge Kruger Park

 

East and Southern Africa has so much to offer the nature enthusiast, but the Great Kruger and Serengeti stand out among contenders. The two destinations offer very different experiences and each reflects the priorities of different travellers. The Kruger National Park in South Africa is set in a bush environment while the Serengeti in Tanzania occupies a large open plain. Depending on personal taste, you could love either… or both!

The fact is that both the Kruger and the Serengeti are equally iconic, offering different ecological environments that determine them both esteemed choices. Whichever you decide to visit, the truth is that you will never tire of it, dreaming of returning again and again – each time creating new memories.

Both parks – easily the size of a small country – are full of big and small game and equally demonstrates the emblematic predator-prey dynamic.  They border legendary private reserves such as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Masai Mara in Kenya; and Sabi Sands and Timbavati Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

Both offer sightings of mystical wildlife and picturesque landscapes, family experiences, unprecedented sunsets, a touch of romance and luxury comforts in exquisite colonial-setting accommodations. In Tanzania or South Africa you can sleep in tented accommodationsbut rest assured, it is not considered camping! Your safari will include four-poster king beds and en-suites with modern amenities.

Ivory Lodge Lions Sands Kruger Park Safaris

Both the Kruger and Serengeti are the perfect place to begin your African adventure, especially for those who have never been on a safari before. As a rite of passage, both parks rank among the best in the world to see the rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard. If you’re a gentle giant enthusiast, head to the Kruger that supports a dense elephant population or to the Serengeti if you’re more of a cat person.

Both the Kruger and Serengeti are considered year-round destinations as it’s always a good time to go! Although, both countries have two distinct seasons and you can expect similar weather and animal patters in both countries during these times of year.

 

The summer months bring occasional thunderstorms and higher temperatures. The landscape and vegetation is green and lush and the beauty of the landscape will overwhelm you. While large game are not as active during this period, sightings are still sensational as there are lots of young animals around and the bird watching is incredible.

They each have dry winter months which are considered the best time of year for wildlife viewing. This is when the bush is less dense and animals are much easier to spot as they generally congregate near waterholes. There isn’t much rain at this time of year and the skies are blue. What sets the Serengeti apart from the Kruger during winter is the incredible wonder that is the great wildebeest migration.

For most first-timers, just getting to tick off the Big Five from their bucket-list is commendable. Yet Tanzania offers travellers something greater, the annual migration of over 2 million wildebeest. And if you catch yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, there remains an abundance of wildlife to see.

Serengeti is recognised for its variety and volume of wildlife in comparison to almost every other African park.  Besides the Great Migration being a manifestation of dreamlike wonder, cheetahs are frequently sighted in the south – more so than in central Kruger, and is better for locating the world’s largest antelope, the eland. Common sightings of the striking serval is best experienced (and possibly only) in the Serengeti, making it one of Africa’s top wildlife areas.

Not undermining the Kruger, the park holds the world’s most important monopoly over the endangered black rhino! Contrary to the Serengeti’s eland, travellers can anticipate seeing diverse antelope on game drives such as kudu, sable, nyala and bushbuck. They also maintain one of the last endangered African wild dog populations. And while some flock to the Serengeti for the Great Migration, ecologists might be interested in the Kruger’s organised night drives to look at some of the smaller nocturnal predators.

The two parks are not only located in different countries, but host different ecosystems, landscapes and wildlife. Yet they have more things in common than that which sets them apart, making it difficult to decide which to visit first. The elusive leopard can be spotted along the Seronera River and Sabi River and both parks guarantee sightings of one or all of the following: the spotted hyena, jackal, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, hippos, crocodile and endless other wildlife.And while the black rhino is most commonly found in the Kruger, they can also be seen along the buffalo’s migration route in Tanzania. The open plains of the Serengeti promise sightings of large herds of grazers, but Kruger National Park has also recorded sightings of magnificent numbers of buffalo.

Both the Kruger and Serengeti offer incredible wilderness opportunities. If you have been to the Kruger National Park or the Serengeti, which one would you recommend and why? Let us know in the comments on our Instagram page @iconicafrica and tag us in your wonderful photographs of the Kruger National Park or the Serengeti with the hashtag #KrugervsSerengeti.

 

 

Royal Malewane Refurbishment

On a private game reserve bordering the Kruger National Park lies The Royal Portfolio’s family owned and run Royal Malewane.

This exclusive safari lodge in the Great Kruger National Park – which opened its doors nearly two decades ago – is set against the silhouetted back drop of the towering Drakensberg Mountains. Despite this awe inspiring setting, it is the Royal Malewane’s lavish attention to detail in every aspect which belies belief and which has earned this regal property its plethora of “World’s Best” awards over the past decade.

Royal Malewane has recently completed an extensive refurbishment with some wonderful new additions to carry on insuring a continuously intimate and luxurious experience. Liz Biden says, “The refurbishment has given the entire lodge a lovely lift while retaining the classic safari style and relaxed atmosphere that our guests have enjoyed for nearly 20 years.”

The air-conditioned extravagant suites have always been an opulent hideaway from the heat of the bushveld, displaying unparalleled views of wild spaces beyond. Each suite remains generously spacious but has seen some structural changes such as new floors, doorways, walls and thatching. The Royal Malewane’s kosher kitchen has also been redone.

The suites now have new wooden decking and the swimming pools have been resurfaced. The only intrusion on your privacy that you’ll have, if you’re lucky, is a small herd of elephants that may stop by your rim-flow pool for an afternoon drink as you cool off with a cocktail.

Enlivening the classic suite furnishings, Liz Biden, owner of The Royal Portfolio, has added exquisite pieces of furniture and exotic new fabrics including vibrant new flashes of colour. A fresh variation from the grand mahogany fittings and extravagant Persian carpets.

The two Royal Suites, adorned with authentic and opulent décor that transports guests to a time of old world elegance and classic bush style, were also enhanced with new gazebo entrances.

And while guests are honoured with beautiful new living spaces and private outdoor relaxation areas, the highlight of The Royal Malewane refurbishment is the opening of the Masiya Bar positioned on the old boma dining area. Established to pay tribute to the Master Trackers of Royal Malewane, this contemporary gin and whisky bush bar is an attraction that offers a different kind of relaxation to the private plunge pool and spa sanctuary. Named after one of the first of the three Master Trackers at Royal Malewane, the Masiya Bar is a wonderful new space for guests to lounge around the fire and share the stories of the day. It also doubles as a new private dining options for guests.

While travellers enjoy the fruits of this recent refurbishment, keep your eye on the Royal Malewane as a new building project is underway. Some of the exciting developments in the pipeline include The Farmstead at Royal Malewane which will open in mid-2019.

 

 

South Africa: A Winter Wonder

Winter in South Africa is by no means our off-season! We won’t inconvenience travellers with snow storms and grounded planes. Which is why winter is the country’s secret hot season to travel with all its charms. Here is why experiencing winter in South Africa is such a great idea and  a fews of the many activities you can do:

 

As inviting as the sunbathing, cocktails and swimming is, there is more to South Africa than sun-kissed beaches and bodies. Winter in South Africa will look just as amazing on your Instagram feed as travellers gear up to explore the major cities in 2018. There are some things that are just better in winter, with warm cocoa, scarves and curling up in front of fireplaces.  Or watch the rain with a glass of Shiraz and a cheese platter at one of the Western Cape’s fantastic wine estates. Our international travellers can experience fewer crowds, great food and find cosy hideaways. It is the perfect time to combine a family safari with other winter experiences in this beautiful country, especially with U.S. and European summer vacation afoot.

The cooler, milder weather of winter makes being outdoors a lot more pleasant, especially when that crispy winter sun decides to grace us. Here are some activities that really are better during May to August in South Africa:

WILDLIFE AND SAFARI

Unlike Zambia and Botswana, South Africa has a much quieter winter season. Many camps and lodges are less busy than during the warmer summer months, but this makes for a great opportunity to visit – and can also mean that you get your own private safari vehicle!

There is no better time to sight wildlife than during South Africa’s cold, winter months when the savannah becomes sparse and loses its camouflaging colour. Wildlife becomes more visible and often congregates in groups around water or food. Animals have a difficult time hiding among the grass and the cooler weather in the mornings and evenings allows them to stay active for longer. Some parts of South Africa are mild and dry and increase the hours of potential game-viewing.

Lions Sands Sabi Sands Luxury Safari Leopard

WINTER FESTIVALS

Winter travel to South Africa has been on the rise owing to one of South Africa’s major attraction for travellers– a time of various cultural events and festivals such as the Franschhoek Literary Festival in May and land-based whale-watching from June to September. There’s also the Knysna Oyster Festival in June until early July and the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, amongst many others.

WHALES

Between July and October, mammals such as the Southern Right whale come to the bays and coves of the South African coastline to mate and calve. Whales can be spotted along the entire coastline, but the Hermanus coast is considered one of the best in the world to view them from.

WILDFLOWERS

Although South Africa is famous for its springtime blooms such as daisies and purple skilpadblomme, an array of white and yellow blooms and succulents and bulbous plants, these beautiful wildflowers appear in late winter.

ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES

There is a season for all adventure activities, but let’s admit, winter is better for some. Surfing is always much more treasured when the waves are bigger and the water is warmer.  Dependent on the Western Cape’s unpredictable rain patterns of late, travellers can also enjoy the benefits of South Africa’s water sports and try white water rafting.

 

FOR THE THRILL SEEKERS

Take a day trip to Gansbaai for shark cage diving. Winter is the best time of year to experience the thrill of being up close with these majestic creatures as the water is warmer and are much more active, often hunting seals.

For more on the benefits of visiting South Africa in winter click here

The Royal Suite at Royal Malewane

“When you have caught the rhythm of Africa, you find out that it is the same in all her music.” – Karen Blixen

The Royal Malewane is set deep in the Thorny Bush Game Reserve, adjacent to the world famous Kruger National Park. The location of this exclusive, private getaway is ideal for the traveller who seeks luxury accommodation while experiencing the true Africa. Navigate the thick wooded section of the park to meet the rhinos, Cape buffalo and the rest of the Big Five. Accompanying the unmatched game viewing, Royal Malewane is set in a region that has spectacular scenery – resting alongside open plains of red soil that reflect the beautiful cherry-pink sunsets. There is something fundamentally romantic about this lodge – especially the intimate Royal Suite – ideal for a couple’s getaway or a honeymoon safari and certainly fit for a king!

While the lodge keeps the guest numbers small to ensure privacy – the Royal Suite can accommodate up to four people in two en-suite bedrooms. Perfect for two couples or a family vacation, the Royal Suite includes the services of a private chef and butler, private game drives, and four daily massages for the guests. Relax on a colonial style four-poster bed, in front of a lit fireplace at night, in one of the impeccable freestanding bathtubs in an opulent limestone bathroom or on the deck overlooking your private infinity pool. The huge windows ensure panoramic views of the horizon – and perhaps even the giraffes drinking at the lodge’s own private waterhole. You can be on a 24-hour safari from the comfort of your own suite, wooden terrace or elevated walkway.

The Royal Suite is adorned with authentic and opulent décor that transports guests to a time of old world elegance and classic bush style. The Royal Suite is the epitome of luxury accommodation, providing a sanctuary for the senses with both indoor and outdoor luxury. Make the most of the surrounding wild beauty and bask in Africa’s warm sun in complete privacy.

Stay in the Royal Malewane’s Royal Suite for an unforgettable experience. Stimulate your senses with an amazing outdoor shower or unwind in a Victorian bath with indigenous oils inspired by African rituals. The palatial suite is fully air-conditioned, equipped with a mini-bar, antique furniture and unrestricted access to Africa’s Kodak scenery.

Fore more on this Royal Portfolio masterpiece click here.

Millennial Travel

2018 sees a continuation of last year’s trend – millennials setting their sights on African travel. Over the years, there has been a shift in the age demographic of travellers coming to Southern Africa – an incentivised travel destination. According to David Frost – CEO of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, younger generations are becoming an increasingly large market for the tourism industry with 46% of international arrivals to South Africa in 2017 between the ages of 18 and 35.

Apart from the search for ‘authentic experiences’, adventure activities, good weather and local hospitality – millennials are taking a break from the latest technology, moving away from typical ‘tourist’ destinations and choosing instead to venture in to unknown territories; deeper in to the wilderness.

Marataba Trails Lodge Luxury Safari Africa Waterberg

That being said, more establishments are catering for and accommodating tech-savvy millennials. Wi-Fi remains a priority for lodges catering to this market. Millennial travellers are interested in following and being connected to the cities and lodges they will be visiting both during and after their trip. Another incentive for millennial travellers is how ‘Instagrammable’ the holiday is. Youth see the world through pixels and filters. Having every breath-taking experience littering the feeds of envious friends and family, Africa – filtered or not – makes for a picturesque experience.

Here are our top ten millennial travel incentives to Africa:

*There is a huge gap in the industry for youth safaris. For a long time, African safaris have been recognised as a luxury experience, out of reach to the young traveller. More young hearts and minds are seeking out a night under the expansive starlit sky while wildlife roam nearby – close enough for you to hear them.

*More than half of our “foodies” are millennials – becoming increasingly conscious of what they put into their bodies, and where it comes from. Mozambique is the place to be for an experience that will satisfy taste buds, with fresh “farm-to-fork” cuisine brought to you from local markets and roadside stalls. Tuck into Tiger prawns, fresh fish and steaming hot Portuguese rolls with stunning views.

*Experience is everything and young travellers want complete cultural immersion. South Africa has a wonderful mix of boutique hotels and apartment rentals in its inner-city districts. Here travellers can unpack everything from street art to street food. A little beyond the city, cuisine and culture remain equally important in the winelands. Wine-tasting tours have become increasingly popular among the millennial travellers as well as an interest in “Instagrammable” agro-tourism in the countryside.

*We do not realise the extent of community work and international volunteers in South Africa, with almost half of the youth travellers coming here partaking in some sort of community initiative or volunteer work.

*Education is also another incentive for youth trips with guests showing interest in astronomy, ecology and interactive dynamics. There will always be a dichotomy between luxury travel, conservation issues and cultural diversity.

*Older travellers have confirmed that they are more likely to choose accommodation that is eco-friendly. Millennial travellers have caught on to this trend of sustainable travel, where a conscious effort is made to avoid contributing to the decline of natural environments (Link to top five eco-lodges post).

Ivory Lodge Lions Sands Luxury Safari Kruger Park

*Youth are choosing to spend their money on experiences rather than material things. Africa, especially Southern Africa, offers experiences that are culturally rich and forcing them to step out of their comfort zones to embrace authentic destinations culturally-relevant sightseeing and diverse cuisines. It is found that millennials are constantly trying to integrate themselves into as many aspects of local life hoping to become a more culturally enriched human.

* Wanting to take everything in; cramming as many places and activities in to their experience as possible, Africa is a millennials travel-sanctuary – offering them opportunities to see a variety of different sights.

Iconic Africa Kalahari Desert Balloon Safari

*One of the biggest trends in millennial travel is the desire to visit off-the-beaten-track locations. They no longer want to sit back and relax on their vacation or visit typically popular attractions that have become overcrowded and ‘over-touristic’.

*For your next millennial adventure trip, head to Zimbabwe. The natural wonder of Victoria Falls will be sure to activate their adventure-seeking nature. The country offers active adventures and unique experiences, which is exactly what the millennial traveller is looking for.

Millennial travel creates memories and invites individuals to reach further in to their own life, changing mind-sets forever. Experience tastes, sights, smells and ambience of authentic African luxury with Iconic Africa. Find out more here. 

 

What is a Game Drive?

A game drive is the highlight of and one of the main activities on any African safari, especially for first-timers. Most travellers to Africa still get confused between a safari and a game drive.

You’re sitting in your outdoor bathtub at Singita Sabi Sands in the Kruger National Park, overlooking the luxury camp’s grassy plains. You’ll have one of the best views of elephants bathing in the Sand River. Sipping on a bottle of imported bubbles resting in an ice bucket, you think to yourself – “this is by far the best safari I have been on,” as you reach for that Egyptian cotton bath towel.

On this grand safari vacation, the camp will have planned many spectacular game drives for you. Far from the luxurious comforts of the camp you will set off on an adventure that entails viewing Africa’s prestigious wildlife ‘up close and personal’ from the comfort of an open 4×4 which can accommodate you and your family. This is a sure way to give you that classic safari feeling. A game drive is one of the most popular ways to see the rolling landscapes, big game, indigenous flora and infinite horizons.

Whether you find yourself in South Africa’s Kruger Park, Botswana’s Okavango Delta or Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, you will witness the natural beauty of Africa up close! On your game drive you may be afforded opportunities to see local wildlife such as the lion, rhino, elephant and so much more! Especially in the Serengeti that is renowned for endless open savannahs.

A game drive can vary in length and distance, depending on individual preferences and the animals you hope to encounter. Most camps and lodges conduct two game drives a day. Most rangers and guides recommend early morning, late afternoon or evening drives, since these are the coolest times of the day when the wildlife are most active. During the drive, knowledgeable guides will introduce you to the wildlife, trees and plants. Don’t forget that you are on vacation, and it’s okay to want to sleep in. Not every game drive is the same – during the evening drive you may see nocturnal animals that are not noticeable during the day!

Here is a quick list of essentials to bring with on your game drive:

SUN PROTECTION

When you’re out in the bush, always protect yourself from the sun – even if it’s not visibly hot. Pack in a pair of sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat, sunscreen and stay hydrated!

CLOTHING

Part of the pleasure of going on safari is that you won’t get stopped by the fashion police. As you’re putting together your movie-made safari outfit there a few practical elements to keep in mind. First, avoid bright colours that make you stand out. You should dress according to the climate and time of year. Dress in layers on early morning and evening game drives. During the summer months, pack some light rain gear and if you’re traveling during the winter months, be sure to dress warm to keep the cold at bay.

SHOES

Whether you stay in the vehicle, or get out to examine smaller animals, insects and plants, a reliable pair of walking shoes or hiking boots will allow you to get the most out of your experience. If your footwear is comfortable, you’ll be able to get up close while feeling safe and secure.

SMALL MEDICAL KIT

It’s invigorating being so intimate with Africa’s fauna and flora, but you will be in a remote location in order to achieve that. We recommend you pack a light medical kit that includes essentials such as aspirin, plasters, anti-histamine medication/cream and insect repellent —this way you’ll be prepared for anything that comes your way.

CAMERA EQUIPMENT

You’ll be taking a lot of photos when you’re out on safari, but the key is to pack light. A quality DSLR camera with an optical lens is recommended if you want the best photos possible. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries and memory cards

BINOCULARS

On drives, you’ll be able to see most big game. You might even get up close to many animals. But other wildlife such as birds are frequently viewed from a distance. For those moments, you’ll need a great pair of binoculars – often on loan by your lodge or camp.

 

African Travel Myths Demystified

“The only thing dark about Africa is our ignorance of it.” – George Kimble

Many people have preconceived ideas about Africa – often based on opinions or myths. Some of these myths have been circulating for so long that they now are in fact considered as truth or fact. Misconceptions are awful things, managing to dissuade many from visiting Africa – which is very sad! Here are our top five African safari myths debunked to convince you to finally book that unforgettable African trip.

Angama Mara East Africa Kenya Safari Tour

Africa is not safe:

Safety can be an issue in some African cities as it can be anywhere in the world now, but when it comes to national parks and game reserves, they are some of the safest places in the world.

Africa is all bush:

Africa is a vast continent with diverse landscapes, environments and climates in a single area. Countries have savannahs, rainforests, mountains, beaches and deserts to accommodate different travel wishes – making it easy to find whatever it is that your heart desires!

You always need a guide:

While it would be recommended that first-time traveller’s view game with a guide – once you’ve been on enough safaris you can go on self-drive safaris. Many travellers have seen the super-seven (the Big Five, cheetahs and wild dogs) on their self-drives.

To truly experience Africa, you have to “rough it”:

There is always the option of “roughing it” in the wilderness – sleeping bag and all. But there is the more popular preference and opportunity, to experience all Africa has to offer in comfort and opulence. South Africa boasts some of the most luxurious game lodges offering unrestricted access to some of Africa’s prestigious wildlife. Most game lodges offer gourmet meals and private bungalows – kitted out with all your modern amenities – that overlook the vast plains and Africa’s vibrant wildlife. Not to mention it offers some of the world’s most affordable luxury travel!

 

It will be too hot:

Yes, Africa’s climate is warm, but not all the time. Some countries have a cold, wet winter and others have a rainy summer. Throughout the year, most game reserves can actually get quite chilly in the morning and at night, and you will need to layer to stay warm. This’s a nice balance between the heat of the day and the cool of the night.

Animals are likely to attack you:

Animals attacking is probably the last thing you need to worry about on your safari! The wildlife, in general, prefer to avoid the company of humans, so they won’t be hunting you down any time soon…

Ivory Lodge Lions Sands Sabi Sands Lions

Only expensive cameras can take good wildlife photographs:

If you own a long lens it is of course advantageous, however it is not a necessity. Many people have photographed animals within meters of the safari vehicle with a 300mm lens. What works well – if you already have one – is the Nikon D7000 with 18 megapixels. The resolution is decent and you could crop the far-away shots.

Zarafa Camp Leopard Iconic Africa

 

Our suggestion is that when you embark on your trip to Africa, you leave behind all myths and legends. Once you hit the tarmac, your adventure begins and you will never look back!

Top Travel Trends for 2018

From remote luxury accommodations to achievement-based travel, 2018 is set to be a year of long vacations, slowing down and learning to appreciate the world around us. Here’s what the experts have to say about the trends for the year ahead:

Booking trends:

79% of travel research is being done on mobile phones and an increase in online bookings has begun trending with 49% of these direct online bookings being made on mobile devices.

Duliini Lodge River Bridge

Solo Travel:

Ever since Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ was published, solo travel – especially among female travellers – has gained popularity. 2018 welcome’s our solo visitors to our safe safari destinations, where the world is at your fingertips. Our private guides and luxury transfers ensure your safety at all times.

 

Remote Luxury:

Luxury travel is increasingly being associated with remoteness and disconnectivity. This year, people are projected to dedicate more time towards travel – willing to travel farther and into destinations often difficult to get to in order to feel like they have a small piece of the world (nearly) entirely to themselves!

‘Off the beaten track’ is one of this year’s travel themes allowing visitors to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience nature at its fullest. An example is Tswalu Kalahari – a hidden gem set literally in the middle of nowhere!

Zimbabwe and Zambia – The two hot safari destinations for 2018:

South Africa is typically considered a favourite go-to for African safaris with Zimbabwe and Zambia as add-on destinations. On the contrary, 2017 saw an increase in demand for trips to Zimbabwe and Zambia as primary destinations. This is a trend most experts believe to continue in to 2018. These two countries have luxury accommodations and crowd-free safaris – perfect for those looking towards that remote luxury vacation. Investments in both countries from infrastructure and airports to national parks has contributed to this new destination-trend. Not to mention the fact that Zambia was recently voted “safest destination in the world by skyscanner.”

Glamping:

For those travellers who really want to be one with nature – but really can’t, there are endless possibilities for you to be outdoorsy without sacrificing comforts and luxuries. 2018 sees an increase in bookings at luxury tented properties for the less nature-inclined to slow down, unwind and enjoy nature without actually having to “be in nature”.

Singita Sabi Sands Luxury Lodge Kruger Park

Achievement-based travel:

2017 was the year for experiential national and international travel; connecting the traveller closely with their country or destination. This year, we will see this taken a step further with travellers pushing themselves to achieve a lifelong goals or using travel to “find themselves.”

The goal of the year is to achieve something – whether it is climbing a certain mountain or hiking a difficult trek – built into a traveller’s trip. This trend is a reflection in the travel industry of visitors wanting more from their trips than just a standard sightseeing tour.

Extended trips

The last six months has seen an increase in travellers booking trips for longer than two weeks – clients often pushing for around-the-country trips. According to Jacada Travel, 50% of the trips already booked are for longer than two weeks.

Travellers not tourists:

Increasingly encouraged over the years and recently trending – visitors to foreign countries prefer immersing themselves in experiences that cannot be found in guidebooks and brochures. Meeting locals and wondering through neighbourhoods has been the best way to experience cultures, from wine tasting to learning a new crafts or languages.

 

For all of us getting on a bus, plane or train to somewhere new… 2018 is going to be an exciting year!

The Big Five – Fun Facts

‘The Big Five of Africa’ is one of the most relentlessly searched for and often mentioned phrases.

The term “big five” began as a way of referring to the five animals most difficult to hunt on foot. The lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo were the five large African mammal species that were known to hunters as dangerous and successfully hunting them was considered an accomplishment.

However, today the expression takes a much gentler approach – referring to seeing the majestic wildlife species on safari in Africa. These friendly giants are frequently sought-after for sightings, encounters and photo opportunities.

Given the formidable five’s status and significance, here are some interesting facts about the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo that we thought you might find interesting:

Lion:

The lion is Africa’s top predator and the second largest big cat in the world. Roaming the savannah grasslands and open plains of Africa, these social felines are the only cats that live in groups (prides) and need a lot of contact with each other. The lions will greet each other by rubbing their heads against one another, exchanging scents that convey information about their intentions, moods and recent activities.

Females share a particularly strong bond as they remain in the same pride for life and raise their cubs together. They do all the hunting, and the males get the first helping – even when there are cubs in the pride. The hunting is done mostly at night as lions can see in the dark. They are not completely nocturnal so their most active time is just before sunrise or just after sunset. However, they are opportunistic feeders and will hunt at any time.

A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles (8km) away, enabling them to communicate with each other over large distances. They spend most of their time sleeping and can sleep up to 20 hours a day!

iconic-africa-kruger-national-park-leopard luxury african safaris

Leopard:

The leopard is nocturnal, solitary and secretive, staying hidden during the day. They are the least seen of the Big Five. These antisocial cats avoid interacting with each other beyond mating and raising young cubs.

Leopards are excellent at climbing trees and will often safeguard their kill in a tree to prevent lions and hyenas from stealing it. They are also strong swimmers and occasionally eat fish and crabs. Leopards can drag prey weighing up to three times their own body weight up into trees over 20 feet (6 meters) tall.

Leopards don’t roar, they bark and snarl. When they are happy they even purr. But this is not only what makes them unique – they are the most adaptable felines! Inhabiting some of the most diverse environments of all the big cats, such as both deserts and forests – their ability to survive across a range of habitats has enabled leopard populations to survive in far flung parts of the world.

Rhino:

The rhino is the most endangered species of the Big Five. The illegal trade of rhino poaching is being driven by an Asian demand for horns, made worse by increasingly sophisticated poachers. Very few rhinos now survive outside national parks and reserves.

A rhino’s horn is not attached to its skull. If it breaks off it will grow back again.

The white and black rhino have no teeth and hence rely on their lips for eating.

Rhinos have poor vision and will sometimes attack trees and rocks by accident. However, their hearing and sense of smell are excellent, thus often making up for their poor eyesight.

Elephant:

Many trees in West African forests – at least one third – rely on evolved seeds to pass through an elephant’s digestive tract for dissemination and germination.

African elephants communicate across large distances at a low frequency that cannot be heard by humans.

Under Africa’s scorching sun, elephants get sunburnt too! They throw sand on their backs and heads to prevent sunburn and keep insects off their skin. And even though their skins are incredibly tough, they can feel those tiny insect walking on their skin!

When baby elephants are born, they are almost blind and some individuals suck their trunks for comfort, similar to the way young humans suck their thumbs.

Elephants love to swim and are able to swim for long distances. They use their trunks as makeshift snorkels. The trunk is also used for grabbing, bathing, smelling, drinking and can pick up something as small as a grain of rice.

Buffalo Walking Safaris Iconic Africa

Buffalo:

A buffalo’s primary predator is the lion. It will try to rescue another member who has been caught or hurt and has often been observed killing a lion after it has killed a member of the group. Unlike the water buffalo – whom has an uncanny resemblance to the African buffalo – the latter is dangerous and has never been domesticated.

Dangerous, and rightly so! Buffalo are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other animal. They still kill over 200 people every year earning them the reputation and nickname of ‘Black Death’ and ‘Widow Maker’.

Our safari-goers from across the world are eager to spot the famous rhino, leopard, lion, buffalo and elephant combination. Contact us now to learn more about our safaris to Africa’s finest Big Five viewing reserves!

Traveller Review – Dahm Family

The Dahm family have just returned home from a lovely African adventure and have been kind enough to share their experience with us here:

“The vacation was the best we’ve ever taken. My family said so many times, “Mom, you planned a perfect vacation. And I said well thank you to Iconic Africa! I would never have found these properties on my own.” Lauren, we absolutely LOVED both the Cape Grace Hotel and &Beyond Ngala. I truly don’t think it would be possible to have a better experience.

Cape Grace was so beautiful and it was a delight to stay in a unique property like that versus the big international hotels. The service was exemplary and every square inch of the hotel was gorgeous. Our suite was even better than expected and the photos on the website couldn’t capture how lovely and spacious it was. Of course we had a big terrace with beautiful views as well. Just perfect.

While we did love Cape Town and all the tours and sights, the safari was the highlight. What a magical experience. We had a fantastic guide with almost 20 years of experience – and saw the big Five every day – and so much more! Ngala was gorgeous, natural, comfortable, and the service was stellar. We did not expect gourmet food and elegant dinners! It was just perfect. I would highly recommend Ngala to anyone contemplating a safari. Not just the property but the reserve itself is so large, you never feel like you are surrounded by tourists, and SO MANY animals.

We also really enjoyed a couple of days in Camp’s Bay at the Bay Atlantic Guest House, which was a lovely and comfortable spot (gorgeous view of the beach and mountains and walkable to town – just perfect).

Also, the connections and flights, etc all worked out perfectly so appreciate the details you handled as well.

 

We have hundreds of pictures! I am making an album for our family.

We cannot thank you and Julia enough. Joe and I were a bit concerned about the cost of one vacation being so high but it was worth it. It will be a memory of a lifetime for us and for our children. The only concern is another vacation will never measure up! ”

A big thank you to Joanne for these wonderful words. We hope to see you on African soil again soon, soon!

 

Fall in Love with Africa this Valentine’s Day

Africa is the continent of safari, wilderness and adventurous escapades but infused into all of this is an unmistakable and ancient romance.

There is very little in this world that compares to a rustic, yet luxurious entanglement with nature. And what better way to spoil your partner or loved one than to jet off to one of our hand-picked lodges this Valentine’s Day. If a tailored romantic safari is something you have always dreamed of, now is the opportunity to make it an iconic reality.

 

 

If you’re short of ideas, here are our top three romantic accommodations that will inspire that loving mood. From their prime location to majestic views – Iconic Africa wishes to provide you with an once-in-a-lifetime African experience.

Singita Sabi Sands Luxury Lodge Kruger Park

Four hours from Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport lies the Kruger National Park, the largest reserve in South Africa. Encompassing three countries – South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique – this wildlife sanctuary adjoins the Sabi Sands, the most famous Private Game Reserve in the Southern Hemisphere. This reserve boasts some of South Africa’s leading safari lodges:

Singita Boulders
If you are looking for unparalleled luxury in the bush then Singita might just be the place for you. It is without doubt one of the most romantic safari lodges in South Africa, winning “Top Hotel in the World” 16 times! Fitted with modern comforts in an exquisite African wildlife setting, each suite offers privacy, pampering and romance. Enjoy the sunset while overlooking the vast landscape or a candle-lit open air dinner from your private suite. Share the memory of miraculous sightings with your significant other as Singita has no perimeter between comfort and nature.

Londolozi Granite Suites
There is no better place to keep the flame burning than in nature. Londolozi’s private granite suites are built in to the granite rock on the banks of the Sand River with uninterrupted views over the river. Each suite has its own private rock pool and a glass encased bathroom allowing you to feel like you are living in the bush. This is the ultimate romantic safari destination as you and your loved one relax in the private outdoor bath overlooking the river, or sight a leopard and unsurpassed game. Find all the secret places of Londolozi and enjoy a picnic in the wilderness or a couple’s massage in the bush.

Lion Sands
Have the night of your life under the stars. Share a unique and exhilarating experience in the top of an ancient Jackalberry Tree. Couples are left for a night of privacy in a secluded treehouse, towering over the wealth of fauna and flora Lion Sands has to offer. Left in complete comfort, luxury and tranquillity, the treehouse is nestled among the trees 15 minutes away from the lodge. Couples can also get rid of urban stress and unwind at the health spa.
The Kruger is showered with magical, dreamy lodges. From game sightings right from the comfort of your luxurious suite to private outdoor dining and sleeping under the stars. Our lodges have plenty of choice to satisfy incurable romantics this Valentine’s Day.

Lions Sands Ivory Lodge Rooms Iconic Africa Luxury Safaris

If a full tour is what you are looking for – look no further. Iconic Africa’s Royal Romance combines the beauty, wilderness, adventure and pioneering excitement of Africa with four destinations that define supreme luxury permeated with complete privacy and opulent romance. Ellerman House is the definition of modern sophisticated living on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the marvels of Cape Town all around. La Residence is the jewel of Franschoek – abject indulgence suspended in an impossibly beautiful valley of vineyards. Royal Malewane is impeccably tasteful grandeur surrounded by the majesty of the African wilderness. Royal Chundu is the ancient mystery and magic of the Zambezi in luxurious island seclusion. Click here for full interactive itinerary.

Where to Stay in the Kruger National Park

If you’re planning the perfect African safari, few places would be better than the world-renowned Kruger National Park for just that. Kruger is one of the biggest wildlife sanctuaries in the world offering some of the best game-viewing… and an opportunity to stay in this sensational park should never be passed up. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime spots… and sits high up on many travellers’ bucket-lists – for a reason! Here are some of our favourite places to stay in Kruger.

The Kruger National Park Private Concessions

The Kruger private concessions have been praised as being the ultimate in luxury and promise to deliver only the greatest safaris. If your dream is to have an epic safari of a lifetime with your family, complete with exclusivity and opulence, we suggest staying at the Royal Malewane. Royal Malewane is the perfect escape for families and friends, and children are warmly welcome! Royal Malewane is both bold and beautiful in a truly eclectic African way—from the daringly bright colours to the hand-crafted beds, it is uniquely chic yet funky. It’s set in the heart of all the ‘wilderness’ action, which makes it ideal for spotting animals and watching birds. The Royal Malewane has also only just dropped it’s fences with the Kruger National Park… and so the game-viewing really is sensational.

Royal Malewane

Sabi Sands

Sabi Sands is possibly the most well-known private game reserve in the southern hemisphere. Bordering Kruger, it is one of the most popular private game reserves because of its exceptional game-viewing. It is the pinnacle of luxury and in 2014, Londolozi was voted the best hotel in the world—this makes Londolozi the obvious accommodation choice. With intimate leopard sightings, and exceptional accommodation, Londolozi is something truly special. We suggest staying at the Tree Camp because of the unique experience it offers its guests—the camp seems to be suspended amongst the shade of Londolozi’s magnificent trees. It’s ideal for a couple’s escape—what could be more romantic than enjoying a glass of champagne with your loved one at the candle-lit bar before heading off to your private room which houses a cosy king-sized bed? Rooms are complete with sunken bubble baths and spectacular views of the river below.

Londolozi Tree Camp Deck Iconic Africa Safaris

Timbavati Private Game Reserve

Timbavati lies on the western boundary of Kruger and is famous for its white lions and Big 5 game-viewing opportunities. For something truly special, we suggest staying at Ngala Tented Camp. The camp lies on the banks of Timbavati River, but this is camping like you’ve never experienced it. The tents are absolutely extravagant, complete with aircon, thick down duvets, and gorgeous private bathrooms. At Ngala Tented Camp, guests truly feel immersed in Africa—listening to the sounds of the African bushveld and gazing out at the river—whilst enjoying the opulence surrounding them. Delight in whiling the relaxed hours away in the rim-flow pool while watching elephants frolic at the banks of the river. It’s an experience that is not to be missed.

For more information about Kruger and its amazing accommodation options, please visit our site here.